Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands yesterday condemned recent social media attacks on Miss Bahamas Universe contestants and said such actions are indicative of a loss of civility in Bahamian society.
A video released last week by the Miss Bahamas Universe organization to debut the contestants was met with heavy criticism across the country. The video quickly made the rounds on social media, with many commenting that the participants were not attractive enough to participate in a beauty pageant.
Sands said that the nature of social media makes it easier to demean others.
“It is certainly a major issue with social media now that given the anonymity, or supposed anonymity, it allows individuals who may not know, or definitely don’t know, the persons to hurl insults, to make disparaging comments, etc. often in a vindictive and spiteful way, in a way intended to exact the greatest emotional toll,” he said.
He added, “At the end of the day, we are seeing some signs in this country now that suggest that civility is less and less common, particularly using the media attached to social media – Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, whatever.”
Sands said that while he does believe there should be legislation to address cyberbullying, other steps must be taken to combat the issue as well.
“I also think that we ought to engage in a conversation, because laws in and of themselves, particularly as it relates to behavior, don’t necessarily have the impact that we’d like as quickly, and they would generally only deal with the worst of the worst or the greatest offenders,” he said.
Bahamian psychiatrist Dr. David Allen also weighed in and warned that the belittling comments are very dangerous.
“If you can’t improve on the silence, just be silent,” he said.
Allen added, “This is a very dangerous thing. It makes some of them want to lose their motivation. Some may want to pull out. And some may actually feel that by coming out to participate in Miss Bahamas, they actually became hurt.
“And not only may they withdraw, but they may start to withdraw from their own potential, and that’s a serious thing.”
He added, “So, for these young ladies who risked to come out to be the best that they can be, regardless of our, opinion, let’s support them and encourage them. Give them the safety they need. Give them the love they need. Give them the empowerment they need.”
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish